next up previous
Next: WUCHERER Up: Sumo 20 index Previous: AND WHO DID YOU



designed by

reviewed by

Up to now, the games firm of Frank and Doris have been known for their small but clever light games, notably Banana Republic, and for Doris's graphics, which have enlivened several games including Elfenroads. With this game, first shown in prototype at last year's Essen Games Fair and now fully available, they have changed things. Fugger Welser Medici is a large and lengthy game of mediaeval trading. The first thing that strikes you on getting it is the quality of the production. This is a game that has been lovingly put together using the very highest quality components. Everything is covered with Doris's artwork, the box, the rules, the board, the cards, everything, and every piece complements the others, it's a real feast for the eye. Once into the box, the rulebook describes 4 games, a basic game said to last about two hours, and 3 further developments on that, leading up to the grand Full Game which weighs in at eight hours duration. The basic game revolves around buying and selling 3 types of wares, spice, metals and cloth in the trade centres of Europe. Appointments for deals come in the form of cards, which tell the players where the deal will be, how long in the future, and what will be sold or bought plus a minimum/ maximum price. Other cards are for Trade Fairs, which take place at a set time each year and offer chances to both buy and sell, and chance cards, some of which depict real historical events such as the discovery of America, adding useful flavour. Players use up to 3 Trading Representatives to move around the board, either buying goods or transporting them to sales. The first TR to reach the town where the trade takes place has an advantage, so quick travel is often useful, but increases costs and danger of accidents long the way. Once the calendar reaches the date of the deal, the sale or purchase takes place, with a separate deal for each type of ware on the card, the players with TRs at the site make secret bids, and the highest bid to buy or the lowest sale price makes the deal. In the more complex games, more cards are introduced, some of these involve sales to Noble Clients, and here the successful bidder(s) may choose to give up some of the payment. In return they get help from the client in rising up the Nobility Table towards the ranks of the Aristocracy, along with other benefits such as free travel in certain areas or debt notes from the Noble which pay regular interest. The second, Noble, game ends when a player gains a title, while the third and fourth variants complicate things with a yet more complex set of cards, continuing until one, or in the Full Game, two players have accumulated enough cash to purchase a Country Estate. The game is very tricky to set up, with a complex set of rules for setting up the card packs at the start and a less than clear mechanism governing the timing of the first deals. Once through that though, it seems to run smoothly, the various mechanisms mesh together well, and the level of interaction is good. There are however problems. The first is the difficulty in planning. At any time there are four deal cards on view plus a trade fair card. You set your TRs of towards them, as does everyone else, various mishaps may or may not occur en route and once there you bid. This doesn't seem to give much scope for strategy, since there is, apart from the Trade Fair each year, no fixed point to aim for more than 3 or 4 moves ahead, and movement to a new town often takes that long or longer. Also, the bidding system seems very vulnerable to dumping, which means that in the games I have played and in others that I have heard about, once one player gets ahead they can control their lead, the others either dump even lower and lose money, or let the leader take a minimal profit.

I would really like to recommend this game. It is beautifully made, has several interesting mechanisms and Frank and Doris are two of the nicer people in German games publishing. They deserve a success. But based on the short games that I have had, I can't do so. The game seems to lack something, and the dumping problem has no obvious answer. The only light in the tunnel that I can see, is that the longer games may solve this, since when the leader has to give up cash in order to move up the Nobility Table it may allow the others to get back at him. I hope so, but don't have the time or opponents for 6-8 hour games and so can't test the theory. I will look forward to seeing comments from those who can, and will be pleased if they prove my first impression wrong.

John Webley

next up previous
Next: WUCHERER Up: Sumo 20 index Previous: AND WHO DID YOU
Stuart Dagger